Limits of State-Led Programs of Payment for Ecosystem Services: Field Evidence from the Sloping Land Conversion Program in Southwest China
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The Chinese government is currently implementing its Sloping Land Conversion Program (SLCP), the world’s largest Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) program. Few studies have comprehensively assessed both its environmental and its social outcomes; in particular, issues of effectiveness, efficiency and social fairness are rarely addressed in the literature. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, this research presents extensive field evidence of the effects of the SLCP. It also reveals the gap between the policy’s objectives and the actual results of implementation. Less marginal land included, poor tree species selection and undifferentiated household selection for participation have limited the positive outcomes of the SLCP. We argue that the state-led PES program’s bureaucratic modality and top-down implementation neglects local participation and pro-poor considerations. A more decentralized approach with more local participation is an important requirement in policy development and implementation for PES programs.
KeywordsForest governance Payments for ecosystem services Effectiveness Fairness Efficiency Sloping land conversion program Southwest China
The fieldwork for this research was financed by the Ford Foundation Beijing (G 6600561) and the I-REDD+ project (funded by the European Union, project no. 265286). This research is also part of ESRC-funded research project (no. ES/K005812/1). We acknowledge the local officials and villagers for giving their time to share their insightful thoughts with us, and Zhengli Li, Mingming Wang and Bin Yang’s help with the questionnaire survey. Thanks also go to Sally Sutton for her copyediting assistance and Dr. Juan Carlos Laso Bayas for advice on statistical analysis. The paper has benefited significantly from the valuable comments of editors and two reviewers.
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